New X-Files Episode ‘This’ Simulates A Plausible New World Order

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Mulder and Scully shoot some Russian mercs in Season 11 Episode 2 "This."
Mulder and Scully shoot some Russian mercs in Season 11 Episode 2 "This." 20th Century Fox Television

“This,” the latest Season 11 episode of The X-Files, is not only far better than the season premiere “My Struggle III,” but also a decent enough sequel to one of the all-time great X-Files episodes, Season 5’s “Kill Switch.”

In “Kill Switch,” written by cyberpunk writers Tom Maddox and William Gibson, a malevolent AI with an orbital space laser systematically wiped out anyone capable of threatening it, but the plot took a late-episode turn into brain simulation, with Mulder narrowly avoiding a forced upload of his consciousness into a glitchy simulated reality.

So when Richard Langly, a long-dead member of the Lone Gunmen, pops up on Mulder’s phone, it may not come as a surprise to learn it’s a digital simulation, his consciousness uploaded into a supra-NSA simulated reality and bent to the will of the world’s ruling elite.

But while there’s some fun techno-speak driving “This” forward, it’s a Network -inspired encounter between Mulder and Erika Prince, who might just be the bad guy The X-Files needed after the Cigarette Smoking Man dwindled down to a deranged Mulder father-figure whose decades-long conspiracy amounts to releasing a plague in a bottle. Prince was once a member of the same Syndicate that cut a deal with the aliens (revealed to have abandoned their plan to conquer Earth because we polluted it too badly), but her own plan is opposed to the Cigarette Smoking Man’s. Her eventual goal is to populate the rest of the solar system with the world’s elite and leave the rest of us to rot, but that’s only incidental to her plot in “This.” In her boardroom conversation with Mulder, she outlines the episode’s most powerful thesis: you can’t opt out of the future.

“Life on this Earth, all human life, most animal life, is about to be crushed. Burnt to the ground. The computer simulator down the hall is necessary for our evolution of the species,” Prince tells Mulder, “this isn’t about ‘this is black, this white, this is male, this female, this is rich and this poor and this is chaos and this…”

“Control,” Mulder says, completing her thought.

It’s a simple articulation of a typical conspiracy theory mindset: all social progression, politics, class warfare is a bullshit cover for naked control, battled over among a shadowy elite, who operate in secret and make suckers of anyone participating in day-to-day democracy. It is also fantastically stupid, since it’s exactly the societal inequalities contained within those divisions that produce and reproduce every possible tier of control and dominance. What are political power, privilege and money, if not mechanisms of control?

But that’s beside the point. If anything, it’s impressive that The X-Files actually captures the conspiracist mentality accurately after “My Struggle III” and its embarrassing “fake news” speeches. Where The X-Files conspiracy finds its most chilling real-world theme is when Prince describes NSA-backed plan to scan and upload all of humanity through their mobile phones. No one gets a choice, Mulder objects.

“Sure you do. You could not use your phone,” Price says.

As a sequel to “Kill List,” “This” points out that the technologically singular will eventually become commodified, weaponized, ubiquitous. Mulder and Scully might manage to thwart Price’s shitty, simulated reality, where she and the most powerful control every mechanism of creation for themselves, but there will be another. But there’s also something larger lurking in Price’s false choice, revealed in the specifics of Langly’s digital afterlife.

“It’s like I designed heaven,” Langly tells Mulder and Scully. “I eat hot dogs and donuts all day long. No one ever dies of cancer or Alzheimer’s. And The Ramones are here!”

Sounds good so far. But Langly’s not done. “I beg of you: destroy it. We’re living a lie here. It’s a work camp. We’re digital slaves. Take our uploaded minds to develop science that the elite will use to rule your world,” he says. “We dream but we’re not allowed to have dreams, goals, nothing for ourselves.”

That sounds awful. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world where only the rich — the simulation is full of tech-aligned whizzes, including Steve Jobs and Michael Crichton — are released from the stress of disease, with access to better treatment. And what kind of dark, twisted future would imagine broad consumer choice as sufficient compensation for never-ending wage labor? Weird!

The X-Files has had some pretty creative stories over the years, but this “simulated reality” might just be the hardest to believe. It’s a scenario where individual freedom and choice is largely illusory, particularly in the face of imminent worldwide catastrophe like, say, something that could cause temperatures to rise enough that we’ll all be “burnt to the ground,” as Prince puts it. But you could always just not use your phone.

Other Fun Stuff From The X-Files Season 11 Episode 2 “This”

  • In “This,” The X-Files joins the Russia panic consuming the #Resistance. When Mulder finds out about the FBI taking orders from a Russian mercenary group, Skinner says, “Under a classified security directive… FROM THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH,” while staring straight at the camera and holding up his phone to show a Trump tweet (ok, not quite).
  • Mulder and Scully do actual detective work together in “This” (including, lol, QR codes), unlike the series premiere, which kept knocking her unconscious and dumping her in a hospital bed.
  • MULDER: “I’m going to open an x-file on this bran muffin. I got to get to the bottom of why it’s so freaking good.” SCULLY: “I don’t care if it came out of an alien’s butt. I’m going to eat this whole thing.”
  • Erika Prince’s simulated world is located in Manhattan’s secret NSA facility TITANPOINTE, as revealed by Edward Snowden. From there the NSA surveils the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and dozens of countries, making it one of the most plausible New World Order loci in X-Files series history.
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